Chapter Two: Commitment is Key

Me (black shirt) gripping the frisbee disc at a tournament.

In ninth grade, I was running along the pier when I saw a girl on my high school frisbee team deliver a perfect flick throw on a field. As the disc cut crisply through the air, I wished I could do that too. I tried with my own frisbee at home later that day, but it came crashing to the ground a few feet in front of me. The throw seemed impossible. I’d probably never learn how to do it. 

When I joined ultimate frisbee in college, I already knew how to perform the basic backhand throw, where you bring your arm across the side of your body to release. I learned how to grip the disc correctly for different scenarios. To aim for accuracy and stability, I learned the fan grip, and for longer and more powerful throws, I learned the power grip. I had no idea how to do the flick throw, a notoriously difficult maneuver for beginners. It usually takes a couple months to learn and get comfortable with, and I was no exception. The flick involves bringing your arm back towards your forehand side instead of across your body, a hand grip shaped like a gun, and wrist rather than arm movement to release the disc. 

I was annoyed at myself for not being able to grasp the concept at first. Lots of these girls had done frisbee in high school but the ones who hadn’t seemed to be improving faster than me. I was embarrassed when I had to throw a flick and it wobbled to the side just seconds after the disc was released from my hand. But the energy and atmosphere of the team motivated me to keep trying. Even when I failed or messed up, I would receive high fives and constructive feedback from the captains. They always told me what I had done well and how I could improve. When we were doing drills or practice scrimmages, they would always yell at me to “get in there!” and cheer loudly for me. Not just me, for everybody, but I was especially motivated when they called out my name. And slowly, I began to improve. I gained confidence and was able to throw smoother and longer flicks. It was fun. It became so easy that I started to prefer flicks over backhands.   

At a tournament a couple months ago, I faked a deep cut and sprinted under to receive the disc. Now that I’d caught it, I had to look for someone to pass the disc to next. Almost like it was in slow motion, I saw one of my teammates running full speed towards the endzone. I had an instinct, like I knew what to do without even thinking. I brought my right arm back and 

swung the disc with all my might. It was a perfect flick, sailing through the air, headed directly towards where my teammate was running. The next couple minutes were a blur of cheers, screams, and hugs as we celebrated that amazing play. Everyone was in awe of that throw. It may have been the longest, most accurate, most beautiful throw I had ever performed in my ultimate career, and it came at the perfect moment without me even really preparing or thinking about it. It just came naturally. 

Me hugging my teammate who caught the disc after my flick throw described above.

Even though the whole play was probably under 15 seconds, I think fondly of it all the time. I watch the video someone took of that throw just to relive that moment and hear everyone screaming my name. I think about how all the practice, all the failed flicks, and all the wobbly discs have all paid off for that moment. All the frustration from my mediocre throws was motivation for me to keep practicing those flicks, and now throwing a seamless flick with the right grip is automated for me. There’s still room to improve, of course, so I’ve been practicing longer, more powerful throws. But now I know what I can do. I know what I’m capable of. I came from that first terrible throw all those years ago to an amazing throw just like that girl from high school. Practicing may not always seem like it’ll pay off, but there will be a moment where you know it did. That moment came about a year and a half after I joined ultimate frisbee, when I made that throw. I realized that while every practice and throw may not be my best, they all contribute to the end result. Commitment is key. Don’t give up. 

I was able to talk to Dawn Culton, a nationally regarded rising ultimate frisbee star. She played throughout high school and for the University of North Carolina, and is now part of the US Women’s U-24 team for ultimate frisbee. She talked about how being committed to the sport has helped her grow. There were significant challenges, including the pandemic, but being physically and mentally present to all tournaments and practices is what pushed her through. The point about being mentally present really spoke to me, because you can be in the best physical shape but without the right mindset, you’re toast. I’ve learned to have a growth mindset in frisbee and focus on my improvements rather than my failures, which translates to all aspects of college. I’ve had a lot of “oops” moments where I’m running behind on an assignment or I have an issue with my friend or roommate, but instead of getting in my head about it, I really try to improve for the future. I’m a big overthinker but frisbee has taught me to trust the process and be more free. To not think so much but to just let it happen naturally. I’m proud of the progress I’ve made and excited for the growth that’s yet to come.

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By Agatha Edwards

Agatha Edwards is a rising junior at Brandeis University from Brooklyn, New York. She is majoring in health: science, society, and policy as well as psychology. She enjoys playing ultimate frisbee with her college team, going on runs, reading, writing, and binging TV shows. She enjoys exploring NYC and Boston with friends, especially where there are cute coffee shops involved.

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